Introduction testing may be useful in understanding certain aspects

Projective testing entails having clients respond to ambiguous stimuli, such as
pictures or phrases, with the intention of uncovering unconscious feelings and
motives. Due to the unstructured and ambiguous nature of the test, the client
can freely project their personality through responses which will then be interpreted
in order to analyse their psychological state (Anastasi, A.,1976). The underlying
hypothesis is to measure personality in a subtle, indirect way, as the spontaneity
of the results reveal concerns, needs, internal conflict, coping styles and
interpersonal aspects. Although this type of testing may be useful in understanding
certain aspects of personality, the literature examined has lead me to believe
that results are tentative at best.

This type of testing is widely applied in the therapeutic setting
or in personnel interviews. Projective testing has a basis in Freud’s
psychoanalytic theory, which proposes that thoughts and impulses hidden in the unconscious
are often the root of problems. Therapists administer projective tests in order
to examine a client’s thoughts and feelings, or to bring certain topics to the
fore. These tests can provide useful information and reveal conflicts which the
psychologist can use as a starting point to address. Freud sought to explore the
unconscious through free association, in which the individual talks about what comes
to mind, revealing basic determinants of personality. The Islamic concept of
the nafs is in line with psychoanalysis theory personality which comprised of
the  Id, Ego, and Superego. Naf’s al Ammara
Bisuu (the lowest level of self ) reflects our negative
traits and tendencies, controlled by emotions, desires and its gratification (Qur’an
12:53), is
similar to the notion of Id, which functions on the pleasure principle.  The reproachful soul(Qur’an 75:2) can
be defined in terms of teh Ego and Superego which attempt to mediate teh Id. Therefore, these tests may aid in pinpointing
one’s struggles with the nafs.

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Rorschach Inkblot Test, introduced in 1921 by Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, is the most widely used projective
test. The individual is shown a series of 10 inkblots and asked by the
interviewer to explain what he sees. Inkblot. 10 cards with complex inkblot in
blakc and white or coloured, report what they see on the card…ask subject to
elaborate response. scored in terms of location- (does anwer involved s small
or entire section of blot), determinants like shape or colour, or content (wht
the reponse represents) Another factor which is taken into account is the
client’s demeanour while answering.  The
Rorschach test has various scoring methods which aim to provide objectivity,
however this is limited as many psychologists interpret the test according to
their subjective impressions.

Another popular test, and more reliable, is the Thematic
Apperception Test. Thematic Apperception Test, Harvard University by Henry
Murray 19930, less ambiguous than inkblot as it involve pictures of actual
scenes.   Client is asked to observe a series of images
and describe a story in each one of them, try to reconstruct what has happened,
what is happening now and what he believes will happen next. The person also
has to describe how the different characters think and feel. The examiner then
scores the test based on the needs, motivations, and anxieties of the main
character and how the story ends. TAT psychologists look for recurring themes
that may reveal needs, motives or interpersonal relationships. (book, 199)

Projective tests are considered less reliable
than objective psychological assessments, therefore, there is controversy about
its effectiveness in drawing solid conclusions regarding personality. A primary
disadvantage of this type of testing is the risk of interpretive bias, and the
fact that subtle differences in phrasing can influence performance on tests.
These tests may help clarify things person has not yet verbalized and, as
opposed to objective tests, there is a lower chance of faking responses due to the
ambiguity of stimulus. However, the tests are inadequately standardized with
respect to administering and scoring. In spite of the use of Comprehensive
System’s for objectivity, the Rorschach falls short of scoring reliability and
validity (Lilienfeld, S. 2005). Thematic Apperception Test is relatively reliable
in measuring aggression and achievement factors. However, there may not always
be a correlation between expressions of aggression in TAT test and overt
behaviour. (Anastasi, A.,1976)

A primary criticism is that projective tests reveal content
connected to the individual’s most recent experiences, as opposed to their
innermost subconscious. Critics propose that in so far as drawing conclusions,
test results are unreliable and responses are susceptible to the client’s mood
at the time a well as minor signals from the examiner. Furthermore, these tests
look solely at an individual’s behaviour, rather than symptoms.

Expressive tests finding trends through drawing, and are
mostly used with children. According to psychoanalysis, the animal represents our unconscious
impulses and desires, thus drawing animal allows client’s to project their
inner world into the animal. Furthermore, the client may be
asked to verbally associate or complete phrases or stories according to certain
instructions, an example is the sentence completion test. The Rorschach and the
Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), have more standardized methods of interpretation
than techniques such as free association and dream interpretation. The Rorschach
is not dependent on a client’s literacy level and has cross-cultural
applicability. However, the TAT may show scenarios that are not relatable or
easily comprehended to those who are unfamiliar with Western cultures or
settings. S. Lilienfeld (2005) maintains that inkblot results of minorities may differ from
the norms, and in addition, TAT administers may over diagnose psychological disturbance.

Scoring systems do not have much predictive value
(book, 199) so psychologists base interpretation on impressionistic evaluation
as well as responders general reaction. Preoccupation in stories are not necessarily
acted upon in overt behaviour- a shy person with aggressive stories may never
act on these impulses. TAT is a sample of behaviour and particular story themes
are only meaningful when considered in light of other situational factors.


Islamic perspective acknowledged the influences of al-ghayb
(unseen) on the soul. These unseen forces can affect mental state and
behaviour. Furthermore, Islamic psychology takes into account the illness of
the heart and the latent nafs. Projective tests can help see unconsciousness,
encourage self reflection. Muslims would seeking refuge to battle the waswas of
shaytaan and self. Muslim clients may show differences in responses compared to
Western norms. The stimuli on projective tests such as the TAT depict Western
people and settings, thus responses to the images may be based on stereotypes of
Western society as opposed to personal feelings.

Despite the useful information gleaned from these tests, they are not
appropriate to use as a standalone to make diagnosis. This
type of testing is good in detecting conflicts, to get
clients to talk about upsetting topics, and to set
goals. True to an extent, however is subject to clinician’s bias. It is
not the only way, and the diagnosis would be more reliable if used in a battery
of test for a comprehensive overview of the client’s personality. However, it can
prove useful in providing a starting point. In addition, if a particular standard
of norms is developed for Muslims or non-Westerners, the effectiveness of
interpretations regarding personality and motives may be more accurate.